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May 25, 2005
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be read in many churches this Sunday: the usual sermon preparation eMo and a second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's ministry to the suffering through the work of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.
Lord, Lord!

Jesus said, Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?" Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.
Matthew 7:21-23

Interesting -- the volume and frequency with which we publicly declare ourselves Christians seems here not to be the most important thing about our faith. It seems that a person could shop only through the Christian Yellow pages, vote only for Christian politicians and support only their initiatives, listen only to Christian music, read only Christian books and magazines, listen only to Christian radio, watch only Christian programs on television -- and not be living according to the will of Christ. There are other things we must do besides witnessing explicitly for Christ, and other things we must be, it seems, besides members of the club.

Is following in Christ really about membership? Being a church person? Not surprisingly, it has usually seemed so to the Church, which throughout its history has made the case for its importance primarily as gatekeeper of God's action in the human family, holding out salvation and heaven and sometimes even the love of God only to the baptized. Or only to the born-again. Or only to members of a specific Christian denomination. Or to people who entertain a particular set of beliefs about human sexuality or economics.

But that cannot be true. If it were, it would mean that the Holy Spirit did not breathe over the dark waters of chaos at the beginning of everything, that God has not been present from the start. That there was no holiness until there was the Christian Church. If God had needed the Church to manage the project of sorting good from evil, it would have been created along with the rocks and plants and animals -- Let there be Church! Insofar as Christians have ever sought to identify God's will with their own and reduce the elastic power of God to the size of their own imaginations -- and they have often done so -- they have not been true to the immensity of what God is. And, in seeking to give glory to God by assuming that their own limitations are also his, they succeed only in subverting his creating and redeeming work.

But not for long. In all the tales Jesus tells in which an outsider gets the best line, we see that every good Samaritan, every woman with an issue of blood, every dying thief who wants to be in the presence of God can be there. God is more powerful than our clannishness, which never stays the hand of God. We are the only ones who wear the chains we make ourselves.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21,26-28
Romans 3:21-25a,28
Matthew 7:21-27
Ps 31 or 31:1-5,19-24

And here is the ERD meditation:

Hear and Act

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell -- and great was its fall!
Matthew 7:27

Pacific Hurricane Aidan has made an unusual appearance in Central America, battering the coast of El Salvador last week, screaming along the country's southern coast with 75-mile-per-hour winds.

Unusual, but not unexpected. 14,000 people who lived fragile homes in low-lying coastal areas were successfully evacuated before the worst of the storm, thanks to a radio early-warning system implemented two years ago in Bajo Lempa by local development organization Asociacion Mangle and Episcopal Relief and Development. The diocesan offices were evacuated, too, and Salvadoran Bishop Baharona ordered its parish churches turned into shelters for the displaced coast dwellers.

It could have been so much worse -- it so often has been. The people who live right by the sea aren't foolish, like the man in Jesus' story. They're just poor -- they make their living from the sea, and have no means of transportation other than their own two feet: they must live close by. In hurricane season, close by is a dangerous place to be.

But this year they knew about the storm soon enough to get away. It is better to avert a tragedy that to clean up after it, to offer prayers of thanksgiving for deliverance instead of funeral prayers. Through ERD's partnership with the Diocese of El Salvador and the wise technical leadership of Asociacion Mangel, we helped them save their own lives.

To learn more about ERD or to make a donation, visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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